Order Hotline: 1-800-527-5226
No Cross, No Crown
Philippians 2:5-11

The expression NO CROSS, NO CROWN has been widely used and among the early users was William Penn, founder of the Quaker colony which became Pennsylvania in his tract NO CROSS, NO CROWN published in London in 1669. How well it encapsulates the meaning of the Palm Sunday procession when Jesus comes the first time riding on a lowly donkey as prophesied (cf Zechariah 9:9) in contrast to his return in power and great glory riding on a majestic white horse (Revelation 19:11ff). First must come “Christ’s sufferings . . . and then the glory to be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). Groans must go before glory. This pattern is seen everywhere in Scripture as in the life of Joseph in the Old Testament where we see that the way up is down. Joseph went down into Egypt, down into prison and then although his brothers did not recognize him was gloriously exalted. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Jesus insisted (Matthew 5:3). Three times he preached the sermon “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:22, Luke 14:11, 18:14). The principle is both embodied and exemplified in our Lord Jesus as set forth in our text. Paul addresses a situation of some local tension and conflict by citing the mind of Christ in one of the great teaching passages on Christ and his work. Doctrine is relevant! Embedded in his careful argument is an ancient Christian hymn exulting in Christ. Let us dig into it.

I .The Self-Emptying of Jesus (2:5-8)

The foundational fact is tht Jesus has always existed in very nature God, i.e. he is in the form and image of his Father (Colossians 1:15). The eternally-begotten Son of God has been that of God which has been seen (John 1:18). Although thus eternally in the Father’s bosom, Christ did not think his equality with God to be something he should grasp at or forcibly retain. He was not reluctant to empty himself and made himself nothing (7). He did not empty himself of his deity when he became the God-man (Wesley is wrong in “emptied himself of all but love”) but of all all the insignia and emblems of his glory. “He took the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (7). But his unimaginable condescension was but the first step down. “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! (8). He suffered indescribable brutalization (as Mel Gibson’s The Passion so vividly reminded us) and experienced the most ignominious death which can be experienced (which was almost anti-climactic in Gibson). He “tasted death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9), was “made sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), “dying for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). The Apostle Paul describes his own self-emptying in the next chapter where he testifies to his counting all things as nothing, indeed as rubbish “that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8ff). All matters of pride and boasting, from his ancestry, his orthodoxy, his frenetic activity, his morality — he counted as “loss for the sake of Christ. Can we say with George Mattheson: “I lay in dust life’s glory dead/and from the ground there blossoms red LIFE THAT SHALL ENDLESS BE!” ?

II. The Divine Exaltation of Jesus Christ (2:9-11)

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (9). The Biblical pattern is always “not now but afterwards” (Hebrews 12:11). It is imperative that we always take into account the fact that we are not in heaven yet. Still believers in Christ are “the people before the time” i.e., we have already bowed and confessed that he is Lord! We are already tasting “the powers of the age to come” in a very real and significant sense (Hebrews 6:5). The reality remains: we must suffer for him first and then “reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12). There will be no gain without pain. The name which he has been given and his exaltation as the object of universal submission (not universal salvation) raises the question: is this name the name of Jesus or his appellation as Lord? My old NT professor at Fuller, Dr. Everett Falconer Harrison used to insist that it is in fact the combination of both — the despised name of Jesus (his incarnation) coupled with the high title of LORD (in resurrection and session)! And we worship the living and exalted Christ! And thus it was for Christ, NO CROSS, NO CROWN. And so it is for us who would follow him. The personal and pressing meaning of this for me and for you is painful. Dr. Samuel Logan Brengle was a brilliant university student and then outstanding American pulpit orator. But his heart was not satisfied. He did not feel he was really touching people and so joined the Salvation Army and offered his services to General William Booth. To test his calibre, he was assigned to the training garrison and given the task of cleaning the muddy boots of the cadets. A battle royal raged in his heart. The devil pressed his advantage — “was it for this he had renounced his fashionable church and come to London?” Then the Holy Spirit brought a poignant Scripture verse to his mind: “He took a towel and girded himself.” In a moment he detected the subtlety of his adversary and from his heart he creied: “Lord, if you coluld take a towel and wash the dirty feet of the disciples, surely I can take a brush and clean the cadets’s dirty boots.” So began a ministry which multiplied itself a thousand times in a worldwide ministry (Eternity, 1958). And so our Savior says to us: “Follow me.”

Sermon brief provided by: David L. Larsen, Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
comments powered by Disqus